Even if liberals detest the Crusades, however, there is no good reason for many of today’s Muslims to care about them, and there is no evidence that they think about the subject at all. ~Dinesh D’Souza

No reason not to welcome D’Souza back to the fold if he just forgets that recent nonsense about all our friends in the Muslim world, even among the mass murderers, who really like Christians and Jews. ~Richard Reeb

It’s true that Muslims historically had no great focus on the Crusades…until recent times when Muslims and Arab nationalists rediscovered the Crusades (and the defeat of the Crusades) as a useful historical precedent for what they saw as their own struggles against the West.  Similarly, few in Russia were ever probably aware of the details of the battle at Lake Ladoga or the Time of Troubles, but they were familiar with the heroic mythology of resistance against invasion that became useful for propaganda during the invasions of Germans.  Thus the communist Eisenstein could make a Russian nationalist epic film about Alexander Nevsky, someone venerated as a saint in the Orthodox Church, because his defense of Novgorod against the Teutonic Knights, although largely incomparable to the Soviet situation, served as a potentially powerful symbol used to inspire people.  The basic message was this, as with all good nationalist propaganda films: those people have invaded before, they lost back then and they will lose again.  Memories of past successes become all the more important as a people has fewer and fewer successes in the present.  Hence it is not only the case that many Muslims today cultivate a grievance about the Crusades, but it was to some extent inevitable (especially with certain obvious geographical parallels with the foundation of Israel) since past victories were bound to become more important as Muslims suffered setback after setback even in the post-independence period. 

The fact that the Crusades have been taken up as a manufactured grievance to impart a sense of enduring resistance against European “aggression” to those who would very much like to model themselves on Saladin and Baybars does not make the real-world effects of that grievance any less potent or less real.  There is no evidence that anyone thinks about this stuff?  D’Souza should get out more.  Some people in Syria to this day celebrate Sultan Baybars’ victory against the Mongols and his successes against the dwindling Crusader kingdoms of the Levant.   

Of course, the Muslim rediscovery of the Crusades as a grievance is a political manipulation of history, not entirely unlike the sudden discovery of the virtue of the Crusades even among largely secular Westerners who would normally denounce the “intolerance” of pre-modern Christian Europe under any other circumstances.  But that sense of grievance does exist today.  That doesn’t mean that we have to make any concessions or blame the Crusaders for our problems today (problems we have, indeed, done much more to bring upon ourselves), but it does mean that D’Souza still doesn’t know what he’s talking about.